Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, appears to have enlisted the support of other Eastern European member states in pressuring NATO allies to erect permanent military bases in the region.
The Financial Times reports that countries along the alliance’s eastern flank, stretching from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south, will meet at a summit in early November to coordinate their efforts.
Duda, a conservative who was elected in May, will then host a biennial NATO summit in Warsaw next year where the proposal for permanent basis should formally be made.
The Polish leader told the same newspaper last week that he did not want his country to be a “buffer zone” between East and West. “We want to be the real eastern flank of the alliance,” he said.
If Poland and other Central European countries constitute the real flank of NATO, then it seems natural to me, a logical conclusion, that bases should be placed in those countries.
Western powers have shied away from permanently deploying troops in the former Russian satellite states that joined in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse for fear of aggravating their former master’s security concerns. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula have may made those concerns irrelevant but some, like Germany, are still wary of antagonizing the country.
Poland’s ruling Civic Platform has allied closely with Germany in the European Union. But Duda’s Law and Justice party is more pro-American than pro-German and would likely adopt a more assertive policy if it won the parliamentary elections in October.
In June, the United States said they would permanently deploy artillery and tanks to the Baltics and Eastern Europe where countries have been most unnerved by Russian revanchism.
NATO has also stepped up military exercises in the region, deployed fighter jets to the three Baltic states to defend their airspace and created a high-readiness force of 5,000 soldiers that can respond instantly to threats on the alliance’s frontier.
Western jets have repeatedly intercepted Russian bombers in and near NATO airspace in cat-and-mouse games that are reminiscent of the Cold War.
Poland itself, which has the eight-largest army in NATO, is moving the bulk of its own armed forces to its eastern border under a three-year modernization plan in response to what it described as “unprecedented” Russian military activity in the region.